I always wanted to know more about Italian wines and on my first trip to Italy I was like a kid in a candy store—even grocery store wines for 10 euros were wonderful. I had the same feeling the other day chatting with Pelican Hill’s sommelier Steven Ashworth. An expert on Italian wines he got turned on to them while traveling in Italy as a member of the U.S. decathalon team. Having dinner with another athlete in Milan he tasted a sangiovese he never forgot, “A 1986 Nozzole Chianti Classico—it knocked me off my feet,” he said. Now he’s living the dream, introducing wines of Italy to happy customers.
As an introduction for blog readers I asked him to select Italian wines that could tempt drinkers of American bottlings to change their game. Here are his selections from the wine-by-the-glass list at Andrea, above, along with his quick tasting notes and favorite food pairings from the menu.
1. For sauv blanc fans: try a glass of Gavi di Gavi, Franco Fiorina from Piemonte ($11). Light with a hint of minerality, it drinks like a sancerre and pairs with pancetta-wrapped scallops.
2. Addicted to pinot noir?: Discover Barbaresco, Castello di Nieve, “Santo Stefano,” Piemonte ($31). Same grape used to make barolo and it’s got the same mouthfeel, it reveals the terroir with an earthiness that makes it a go-to wine for porcini mushroom risotto, rich with Reggiano parmesan.
3. For cabernet fans: Super Tuscan Blend, Castello Banfi, “Cum Laude,” Toscana ($24). A mix of cabernet, merlot, sangiovese, and syrah, this wine is fruit forward with a spicy finish. Drink it with Andrea’s roasted lamb rack with Nero D’Avola sauce.
To learn more about Italian wines, Ashworth recommends “Vino Italiano” by Joseph Bastianich. And there are some upcoming epicurean experiences at the resort. Or you can simply visit Ashworth at Andrea. He will steer you around the wine list, and take your cell phone calls whether you’re out of town in another restaurant or shopping locally in your favorite wine boutique. He knows he can introduce you to Italian wines you’ll love.—Anne Valdespino